Finding our stride
‘We’re coming together in Europe and in the USA. Now we’re ready’
With three stage wins, a Queen of the Mountains jersey, winning the team GC, and a pair of second place finishes on the overall, it’s been a big week for EF Education-TIBCO-SVB on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
The team recently earned its first win of the season at the opening stage of the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico. The mountain-top finish suited Krista Doebel-Hickok and the team went all in supporting her. Just 48 hours later, Doebel-Hickok nabbed a second victory, this time in the Gila’s time trial. While Doebel-Hickok is the first to admit that time trialling is not typically her strong suit, her teammates had put in so much work for her over the first two stages that she was able to save precious energy, allowing her race against the clock to feel “effortless” according to the 33-year-old. The five-stage race wrapped up on Sunday with Doebel-Hickok winning the Queen of the Mountains jersey and standing atop the second step of the podium. The team also won the overall team competition.
Meanwhile, over the weekend the six-rider squad racing the Ceratizit Festival Elsy Jacobs in Luxembourg earned the team’s first European win of the season. With just five kilometers remaining in the last stage, Veronica Ewers took a chance on herself and went solo from a select group. As her teammates and sports director cheered her on through her earpiece, Ewers took her first win as a professional cyclist, putting in so much time to her rivals that she leapfrogged fifteen riders in the general classification and finished in second on the overall.
Sports director Tim Harris notes that the 2022 season has not been an easy road up to this point. “Looking back a bit at the first part of the season, I can say it’s not been a very easy start to the year at all,” Harris says. “Although the training camp in February went very well, we had a lot of COVID cases in the spring which really knocked us back straight away, so leading into the Belgian classics meant we lost one of our main riders, Lizzy Banks. Lauren Stephens had crashed. Veronica got covid. Kathrin Hammes got covid. It was really quite a difficult start.”
"A team like this just makes you want to give absolutely everything for your teammates"
In addition to overcoming illness and injuries, the riders also had to find their rhythm. With seven of the 14 riders new to the squad this year and a significantly expanded staff, it took time for the staff and riders alike to learn one another’s styles and how to communicate.
Now, with three months of racing, training, preparing, and reflecting under the teams’ belt, EF Education-TIBCO-SVB is hitting its stride.
After a week of racing at the Tour of the Gila, Doebel-Hickok acknowledges how far the team has progressed this season. “I think for the team’s first year together, it’s taken some time to get it all working together efficiently but it’s definitely coming together,” she says. “I think we’re coming together in Europe and in the USA. Now we’re ready.”
More than just learning to predict each other’s movements in the pelton, the riders have spent time building relationships with one another.
“It’s really motivating to be part of a team where everyone really respects one another and builds each other up,” says Sara Poidevin. “We trust that each of us is giving our best effort at various moments, and at the end of each day we’re able to recognize how each of us played a role in the end results.”
Emma Langley agrees with Poidevin. “We’ve learned to always race as a unit, every single one of us giving our all. A team like this just makes you want to give absolutely everything for your teammates,” Langley says.
A late-comer to professional cycling, Veronica Ewers has always been an athlete and a competitor but she is still learning how to navigate the peloton. Her win at Elsy Jacobs has changed not only her perception of herself as a rider but also how the team perceives itself. “As an individual it definitely gave me a bit more confidence,” Ewers says. “Before becoming a professional, I enjoyed being an aggressive cyclist in club races and making moves, but before yesterday's win, I was lacking the confidence to do that at this level. My teammates and my DS Daniel Foder pushed me to get past that, and I’m so grateful for it. And I think for the team, it confirmed that nothing will happen if we don’t try. The moment I attacked was the last moment to try anything, and it was sort of a moment of ‘Why not? We have nothing to lose by trying’ and nothing will happen if we don’t try. It feels like the team has become a more cohesive unit and I think our success solidifies the fact that we belong in the WWT peloton. The overall success from this weekend in both the tour of the Gila and Elsy Jacobs is the boost we needed to find that confidence as a team.”
With the Women’s Tour, the Giro Donne, and the Tour de France Femmes all fast approaching, it couldn’t come at a better time for the team to find its footing. “We’ve now left the classics behind and are heading into the stage races and I think we’ve got a very good team for this type of event,” Harris says. “We’ve got a good block of races in Spain that I think will suit us. The fact that we’ve won some races now has given a confidence boost to all the riders.”